Special Coverage

Auto Show

GENEVA – Automobiles Citroen brings its new Berlingo utility vehicle and the station wagon version of the upper-medium C5 to the auto show here, but the real star of the stand is the paint job on the Nemo compact utility vehicle.

The new Berlingo is critical to Citroen, and the C5 Tourer can be expected to sell almost as many units as the C5 sedan in Europe, where station wagon sales are more stable than those of sedans.

The Berlingo is the leading compact utility van in Europe, with 26% of the segment, selling more than its identical twin, the Peugeot Partner, even though Peugeot outsells Citroen in general by a 55-45 margin.

The reason is historic, explains an engineer from competitor Renault SA, whose Kangoo also trails the Berlingo even though Renault is a much bigger auto maker than Citroen.

Citroen has a better dealer network in the French countryside than Peugeot, and ever since launching the 2CV 60 years ago, Citroen has forged a name for simple, sturdy work vehicles.

When Citroen introduced the Berlingo in 1996, with a passenger version as well as the commercial model, it started a new segment of what it calls the “ludospace,” a basic car with lots of interior room.

The echoes of that reputation continue, and in this segment the Citroen marque is the European leader. (It is not the only one. The Citroen C4 Picasso has taken over leadership from the Renault Scenic for compact minivans.)

The new Berlingo goes on sale in the second quarter, and in many markets it will be sold alongside the current model, which will be re-baptized the Berlingo First and marketed as the entry to the range.

With the Nemo Combi, Berlingo First and the new Berlingo, Citroen will have three ludospace vehicles.

The new Berlingo also tips the hat to countries such as Spain, where a significant number are used as work vehicles during the week and as family cars on weekends. Seats are independently removable, and the tailgate has a window that opens, making it easier to load small packages.

The new Berlingo is 7.9 ins. (20.0 cm) longer (at 172.4 ins. [438.0 cm]) and 3.1 ins. (8.0 cm) wider (at 71.3 ins. [181.0 cm]) than the Berlingo First, and the wheelbase is stretched 13.8 ins. (35.0 cm) for more backseat knee room.

It uses running gear from the C4 Picasso and can have one or two sliding side doors. The rear can be equipped with 60:40 swing doors, making it easier to access the back of the vehicle when space is tight.

Three diesels (75 hp, 92 hp and 110 hp) and two 1.6L gasoline engines (90 hp and 110 hp) will be available at launch, all mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.

The C5 Tourer has all the engines, transmissions and driver convenience features as the sedan that is to go on sale in France this month, with the additional luggage space of a station wagon.

“We have to listen ardently to the customers in this segment,” Citroen General Manager Gilles Michel says in introducing the C5 Tourer.

The rear end, says Citroen, has a “determined, powerful appearance” while the front is unchanged. The vehicle is 190.2 ins. (483.0 cm) long, 73.2 ins. (186.0 cm) wide and 58.3 ins. (148.0 cm) tall. Like the sedan, it is larger than its predecessor and heavier.

The Nemo Concetto concept car is little more than a paint job, but the nod to the Disney movie hero recalls that little doesn’t mean weak.

Like the clownfish cartoon character with the same name, Nemo’s size is an asset for its target market in Europe’s urban centers. Where Disney’s Nemo escaped the aquarium through the water pump, Citroen’s Nemo can park and turn the tight corners on narrow, crowded city streets.